McLaren's Spanish Succession
Graham Read, Formula 1 Correspondent
It will be all change at the McLaren Formula 1 team next year with one famous Spanish driver, Fernando Alonso, being replaced by another, Carlos Sainz.
Alonso announced on Tuesday that he has decided to leave Formula 1 at the end of this season. The 37 year old made his F1 debut for the Minardi team at the Australian Grand Prix back in 2001 and became world champion with Renault in both 2005 and 2006.
After a fractious year at McLaren in 2007 alongside then rookie driver Lewis Hamilton Alonso went back to Renault before moving on to Ferrari for five years and then returning to McLaren in 2015. This year he has dovetailed his F1 racing commitments with competing in the World Endurance Championship for Toyota and was part of the Japanese manufacturer’s winning team at the Le Mans 24 Hour race in June.
After his early Formula 1 successes with Renault further titles eluded Alonso and he at times became disillusioned with the quality of the cars provided by firstly Ferrari and then McLaren, often expressing his frustrations publicly. The veteran driver did however put in an impressive performance at last year’s iconic Indianapolis 500 race in America.
After announcing that he will be leaving F1 later this year Alonso referred to how much he has enjoyed his many years competing in motorsport’s top category, including all the highs and lows, and even hinted that a possible return in the future should not be ruled out. Time will tell on that front.
Alonso has yet to reveal what he described as exciting new plans for the future, but it is widely anticipated that this might well involve racing in the American IndyCar Championship next year.
Meanwhile the McLaren team confirmed yesterday that Alonso’s Formula 1 seat next year will be taken by his fellow countryman, Sainz. The son of double world rally champion Carlos Sainz, 23 year old Sainz Jnr. began his Formula 1 career at Toro Rosso in 2015 before moving to Renault at the end of last year and is currently 11th in the F1 Drivers’ Championship.
A delighted Sainz commented “McLaren is a great name in the sport with an incredible heritage and it’s particularly special that I’ll be taking Fernando’s seat as part of the next generation of Spanish racing drivers behind the wheel of a McLaren”.
It remains to be seen whether McLaren will retain the Belgian Stoffel Vandoorne in their other car for next season or possibly promote their highly promising young British reserve driver, Lando Norris, who is second at the moment in this year’s Formula 2 championship.
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McLaren's Spanish Succession, 22nd August 2018, 9:40 AM